WASHINGTON (BP)–The U.S. Senate’s version of a bill toughening supervision of sex offenders gained committee approval Oct. 20 without including language that would expand hates crimes protections to encompass homosexuality.
Unlike a companion measure approved by the House of Representatives, the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act, S. 1086, passed the Judiciary Committee without the attachment of an amendment that would extend hate crimes prevention to include homosexuals and “transgendered” individuals.
Sen. Edward Kennedy, D.-Mass., however, plans to seek to attach hate crimes language on the floor to a bill, probably the sex offender measure, an aide in his office told Baptist Press.
The committee markup of the bill without the hate crimes rider came a month after more than 40 pro-family leaders wrote to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist urging him to block passage of the measure. Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission; Focus on the Family founder James Dobson, and American Family Associate founder Donald Wildmon were among the signers of the letter.
“The Senate Judiciary Committee made the right call on this,” said Barrett Duke, the ERLC’s vice president for public policy and research. “The hate crimes language would give homosexuals special protections under the law that transcend protections for most other people in this country. The hate crimes language represents one more attempt in the ongoing effort of homosexual activists to gain special legal status for homosexuals. The goal of all of their attempts is to one day criminalize speech that denounces homosexuality, including religious speech. This hate crimes language must be kept off of this bill.”
The hate crimes language approved in the House would extend protection to include “gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.” Kennedy’s proposed version (S. 1145), which has 44 Senate co-sponsors, does not include “gender identity.” The hate crimes law currently covers the classifications of race, color, religion and national origin.
“Sexual orientation” includes homosexuality. “Gender identity” is a “person’s innate sense of gender,” which may be different than his sex, according to the website of the homosexual activist group Human Rights Campaign. Transgender is an umbrella term for “people who live all or substantial portions of their lives expressing an innate sense of gender other than their birth sex,” according to HRC. The transgender category includes transsexuals and cross-dressers.
Last year, the Senate passed a similar expansion of hate crimes legislation as an amendment to a bill, but the House did not include the measure in its version of the bill. House appointees to the conference committee succeeded in removing the hate crimes measure from the final bill.
This year, the House somewhat surprisingly passed the hate crimes amendment, the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, H.R. 2662, in a 223-199 vote. It was attached to the Children’s Safety Act, H.R. 3132. Passage of the sex offender bill came in a 371-52 vote, with only 29 Republicans and 23 Democrats opposing it, even though it included the hate crimes measure.
Both the House and Senate versions of the sex offender legislation would require people convicted of crimes against minors or violent sexual offenses to register with the government throughout their lives and to wear tracking devices. The bills would also provide for the maintenance of a nationwide sex offender registry.
While Land and his allies said in their letter to Frist they strongly support the House-approved Children’s Safety Act, they “will adamantly oppose” the inclusion of the hate crimes language. The hate crimes measure would violate the “principles of liberty and quality,” grant special protections “to a particular group of people based on their lifestyle” and “could ultimately lead to the silencing of the church,” the pro-family leaders said.
The ERLC’s Duke said, “Everyone who is concerned about creating a special legal status for homosexuals should call his senators and congressman immediately to express opposition to any hate crimes language that grants special protections to homosexuals.”
Citizens wishing to ask senators to oppose S. 1145 may do so by calling the Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121. Members of Congress may be contacted by email through the ERLC’s website, www.faithandfamily.com.